Bike Culture 4 | Beyond Good and Evil


Lately I have been suffering from two distinct problems. The first is a declining memory. The second, a lack of unread books in the house. These two things are only related when I am at home and looking for something to read, which unfortunately is the only time I’ll remember that I have to go to the book store. Once the need passes, so does the memory. But maybe tomorrow…

So in the meantime I have been flipping through some old things, trying to restart books I’ve read recently, or trying to relive the love of old novels that no longer hold sway for me. Most recently I plucked an ancient copy of a nifty little book from the shelf, something I read in high school some 30 years ago. I started to flip the pages and found a score of underlined passages and noted paragraphs. I must have really been into this thing when I was a kid.

In this book I underlined a lot of things I don’t even understand now. Statements so absolute and finite that there is no way an impressionable teenager should have had his nose in this thing. Other passages that drone on about a variety of certainties, none of which make any sense to me now, an older and subtly wiser middle aged man.

But in going through this book this morning I found one passage the younger me not only underlined, but asterisked as well. Something that today I am proud to know that I recognized its import in my youth.

“What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.”

I had a lot of time today to think about this. I was feeling a little sick in the morning so thought I would treat myself to a long, slow and casual ride down Rundle Riverside trail and back on the Goat Creek Trail, circling Mount Rundle. I wouldn’t normally go near Goat Creek on a summer weekend for fear of traffic, but I left early before the day’s real heat and hoped I would be done before the multitudes were out of bed and throngs of them started crawling their expensive cars up the dust and rocks of the Smith-Dorian road.

Rundle Riverside trail kind of occupies a person’s attention, so I wasn’t thinking of much other than how my new Fox gloves were too loose on my handlebars. The trail isn’t particularly entertaining for those looking for a nice ride to Banff; instead, it really is just a well-worn vibrating chair laid down in what is hopefully the least root-filled landscape below the length of Mount Rundle. To be fair, the amount of ridable terrain between the mountain and the Bow River below is negligible, so that there’s a trail there at all is impressive. And for the masochistic of us, the trail is actually a lot of fun, a great challenge and when linked with Goat Creek is a perfect testing ground for a rider’s appetite for old school, kick-in-the-teeth trail riding and a rider’s ability to deal with lactic acid while clawing their way out of Goat Creek and back up to Whiteman’s Pass. Ridden slowly the entire loop is more than palatable to the average rider. Ridden at speed it becomes both dangerous and grueling, upon which a certain contingent of rider thrives. Thankfully I don’t know any of those types.

But today, in my state, I reached Goat Creek and just spun along, resisting the urge to punish my legs, taking in the scenery (I’ve been in this backcountry valley countless times, but always racing through and focused internally rather than around me.) and literally just putting one pedal over the other in content oblivion. I was tired from pushing my new 1×11, but my stomach was feeling better. I was in a strange mood, I guess just happy to be outside on a bike in the backcountry when I started the day feeling sick, maybe also happy that the agreement I struck with myself of going slow and enjoying the surroundings was still holding. As much as I love riding with my friends and family, I truly get off on being alone and flogging my body through the middle of nowhere. This bit of taking in the landscape, of consciously absorbing energy from the power of the mountains isn’t new to me, but it is different. When I push myself in the backcountry I never fail to appreciate the world I live in and the opportunities I have. But when I’m in the backcountry taking my time and paying attention, the experience tends to take on a more elevated stature.

And that brings me back to my pre-ride reading of the morning. “What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.” It’s a classic, and many of you have read it before.

I first wonder if this is true. Historically there have been a lot of things done out of “love” that have not turned out well. Currently I am thinking of the Residential Schools in Canada and the awful legacy that they have left on an entire culture (check this for reference, Boyden as insightful and eloquent as ever But elsewhere in the world atrocities occur and have occurred on so many levels because people have loved something and their predispositions have lead them astray. But maybe it’s important that we don’t confuse religion and love. The faith a devote “religious-ite” (I just made that up) feels for their deity or higher power maybe isn’t love as we know it from a personal perspective, that thing that we feel for other humans, the animals around us, our natural surroundings, our children. I see it more as something a person feels for an institution, a government, a nation. And of course there are as many variations to this theme as there are people in the world, so a generalization isn’t going to do us justice here anyway.

So then I think that these horrible acts have been carried out from a sense of duty, of loyalty, and then I think I’m onto something. Some people – again, thinking Residential Schools have a sense of duty to their chosen purpose, and maybe that’s when the harm occurs. When a person feels they must do something, even harm another human, animal or environment, in order to prove their devotion, to fill their duty, maybe that’s when things go horribly awry and off the rails. When people stop thinking for themselves.

There are more questions here than there are answers, so I ask the whole thing of myself, since that’s all that I really know. I think of the things I love and whether or not that love is beyond good or evil, beyond judgement. I love my wife first of all, and I don’t believe there can be judgement found there. I love my dogs and cat, again something that is pretty innocuous unless you treat them poorly. I love when people are treated fairly and just. I love it when someone I’m passing on the trail isn’t grimacing, or if they are that they still have the sense and civility to respond to my friendly “Hello. Beautiful morning!” with at least a grunt or nod of the head if their lungs are otherwise occupied. I love the wildlife I see in the mountains, and even those I don’t see. And of course I love riding my bike in the silence that exists beyond our roads and railways and limestone mines, and that is something that is certainly beyond good and evil.



Read previous bike culture articles:
Bike Culture | Hey Canmore, Show us your goods
Bike Culture 2 | The Single Track Commute
Bike Culture 3 | Group Rides

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